Thursday, January 31, 2008
New-Iraqi-Flag Protestor Gone Wild!
Great Baghdad, this homegrown, radical malcontent, decided to put the OLD FLAG on his car and drive around Baghdad to see what kind of reactions he would get!
As a sign of protest and defiance, I fitted today the old Iraqi Flag (with the 3 stars and God is Great) on my car to express my rejection to the new flag and also to see what the reaction of the people would be.One can imagine the steely courage it took Great Baghdad to guide his vehicle out onto the dusty streets of the shining metropolis along the banks of the Tigris River. What would people say when they saw the old flag proudly displayed by our man Great Baghdad hunched over the wheel?
The first reaction was from a guy who guards a check point who gave me a thumb up. Another guy asked if it is the new flag and then he checked it and unintentionally exclaimed “oh no it is our flag”.Ah, sweet vindication for Great Baghdad! Screw the Kurds! The flag altered by Saddam as a cheap ploy to draw the Muslim world to his side during his invasion of Kuwait once again flew above Baghdad! The flag under which the Anfal Campaign was carried out was once again attracting all Iraqi eyes! But when Great Baghdad got home, his MOM was not too happy.
Once I got to the house my mother saw the flag and she said that I should take it off “because it is an act against the government” My mother said.“Well the Kurds did not raise the official flag of the state and raised another one instead and they are part of the Government” I replied. Then she said “people would think that you are a Saddamist”. “This is the Flag of Iraq and not Saddam’s Flag” my reply was.The next day the intrepid Great Baghdad once again pointed the nose of his automobile into Baghdad traffic with the OLD FLAG displayed. More good news, folks! Great Baghdad took a spin around town and got lots of THUMBS UP!
well, there are More thumbs up today.Great Baghdad even found a Shiite security guard somewhere in Baghdad who approved of his flying of the OLD FLAG.
First of all I drove through the Hot A’adhayia main street in Baghdad today, and the majority of cars, bikes, Motor cycles and trucks were doing exactly the same thing I’m doing, which is raising the old Iraqi flag.
With lots of cheap gas, Great Baghdad will be able to keep this protest going for at least a couple of decades.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
The Lancet Study Farce and Iraq The Model (updated)
The Iraq The Model bloggers are owed an abject apology from many of their fellow Iraqi bloggers.
JustForeignPolicy.Org's Extrapolated Estimate
based on the Lancet Study's Extrapolated Estimate.
"Three weeks before the 2006 [US mid-term] elections, the British medical journal Lancet published a bombshell report estimating that casualties in Iraq had exceeded 650,000 since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. We know that number was wildly exaggerated. It turns out the Lancet study was funded by anti-Bush partisans and conducted by antiwar activists posing as objective researchers. It also turns out the timing was no accident. You can find the fascinating details in the current issue of National Journal magazine, thanks to reporters Neil Munro and Carl Cannon. "
A summary can't do justice to Munro's and Cannon's article. Check it out. But you might be curious regarding what the researchers of the Lancet report have to say in response. Well, according to Munro and Cannon:
"Lafta, the researcher who assembled the survey teams, deployed them throughout Iraq, and assembled the results -- has refused to answer questions about his methods."
Furthermore, in the January 9th, 2008 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine published a definitive estimate of the number of Iraqi violent deaths from March 2003 to June 2006 by the Iraq Family Health Survey Study Group. Their conclusion?
Stunningly, when the New York Times reported the story of the IFHSSG estimate, this was their headline:
Somewhere between 104,000 to 223,000 deaths. Their best guess being 151,000.
This spin was based on the fact that the IFHSSG estimate was higher than the Iraq Body Count estimate. I don't recall the NYT granting much credibility to the IBC estimate in 2006 when the Lancet Study came out.
1. When the Lancet study came out, Omar at Iraq the Model responded by soundly repudiating the authors:
"They shamelessly made an auction of our blood, and it didn’t make a difference if the blood was shed by a bomb or a bullet or a heart attack because the bigger the count the more useful it becomes...in a political race and the more useful it becomes in cheerleading for murderous tyrannical regimes...When the statistics announced by hospitals and military here, or even by the UN, did not satisfy their lust for more deaths, they resorted to mathematics to get a fake number that satisfies their sadistic urges...To me their motives are clear, all they want is to prove that our struggle for freedom was the wrong thing to do. And they shamelessly use lies to do this…when they did not find the death they wanted to see on the ground, they faked it on paper! They disgust me…"
2. Iraqi Konfused Kid did something very interesting. He posted the responses of some two dozen Iraqi bloggers about their opinions of Iraq The Model's post. While a few offered no more response than a defense of ITM to believe and say what they like, and a few less whole-heartedly endorsed them, most were quite hostile:
"...traitor...holocaust denier...nonsense...anti-rational dialogue people...like the Baathist apologist that they so despise...shameful...they are dying for an asylum in USA..."
That last smear is interesting since some of those excoriating the ITM bloggers have themselves since received asylum in the US. At least one of them already had.
3. Even among those not reflexively malignant, none joined Omar in openly doubting the credibility of the Lancet study, except for Iraq Pundit and Talisman Gate. As for Kid, he called the ITM bloggers:
"...just an inbred propaganda machine, if this is not crossing the line, then I don't know what is...an example of the mentality that currently prevails the Green Zone, nervous Iraqis who just want to make a few bucks by catering to an audience and telling them what they want to hear."
Well, now it has been over two weeks since WSJ has forwarded the truth about the Lancet Study to the world; that it was a calculated lie. But not one of those bloggers, including Konfused Kid, have seen fit to retract a minim of the venom they poured on the ITM brothers. So who is the "inbred propaganda machine" here? On the contrary, in the comments of Kid's most recent post, Kid, once again, bashed the ITM bloggers:
"the hoot comedians, they're in your great country now. I bet they'd kiss your ignorant ass more affectionately."
"On another thread there, I read how you 'hate' the Fadhils. I just don't understand that, to tell you the truth. I have met Omar and he's an articulate Iraqi patriot, no question about that. You demean yourself with this irrational, pig-headed hatred for these three brothers."
Well, I'm afraid I do.
You see, in all their posts, the ITM bloggers and their brother at A Free Iraqi have adamantly refused to see themselves or their countrymen as "victims". This is a terrible thing.
In the meme of the modern Middle Eastern worldview (and especially among those reared on the Arab Post-Colonial myth) that is the ultimate betrayal. To this way of thinking, to be Arab is to wallow perenially in noble self-disgrace for his treatment by the West. For some, to grow up in the Levant and the Near East is to embody the Imam Ali: the victim/savior of one's people. Every child of the Middle East, you see, must carry the torch of Edward Said's "Orientalism", whom the scholar Ibn Warraq says, "taught an entire generation of Arabs the art of self-pity".
That is the sin of the ITM bloggers. They will themselves to see the sun rising on Iraq. Alternately, if the POV of the bloggers like Riverbend and Layla Anwar were universally adopted by their countrymen, Iraq would eventually devolve back to the 18th century. Yet, one need not be retarded or an Islamic Identity fanactic like Khalid Jarrar in order to hold Riverbend and Layla Anwar in high regard while feeling an abiding hate for Omar and Mohammed. You only need to see the world as a "loyal" Arab.
The WSJ follows up with an analysis of the Lancet Study's methods:
Without cluster sampling, the expense and time associated with travel would make in-person interviewing virtually impossible. However, the key to the validity of cluster sampling is to use enough cluster points. In their 2006 report, "Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional sample survey," the Johns Hopkins team says it used 47 cluster points for their sample of 1,849 interviews. This is astonishing: I wouldn't survey a junior high school, no less an entire country, using only 47 cluster points. Neither would anyone else. For its 2004 survey of Iraq, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) used 2,200 cluster points of 10 interviews each for a total sample of 21,688.
What happens when you don't use enough cluster points in a survey? You get crazy results when compared to a known quantity, or a survey with more cluster points. There was a perfect example of this two years ago. The UNDP's survey, in April and May 2004, estimated between 18,000 and 29,000 Iraqi civilian deaths due to the war. This survey was conducted four months prior to another, earlier study by the Johns Hopkins team, which used 33 cluster points and estimated between 69,000 and 155,000 civilian deaths--four to five times as high as the UNDP survey, which used 66 times the cluster points.
Kid responded to this post in the comments at his blog. I responded in turn. Here is an excerpt:
Kid: [ITM's response] was quite simply the equivalent of a dude pulling his hairs
CMAR II: The Lancet study itself was political propaganda that gleefully wrung every imaginable drop of blood from the Iraqi people in order to 1) make Saddam's regime look "not so bad" by comparison, 2) to accomplish an American political end without concern for Iraqis. In October of 2006, the platform of the American opposition party was essentially: "To Hell With the Iraqis. Anything We Do to Help Makes Things Worse. Let's Get Out and Leave Them to Themselves" (which in October 2006 meant "leave them to Al-Qaeda and Iran"). And the Lancet Study was designed to promote that AMERICAN political agenda. Why should any patriotic Iraqi not be outraged by that?
There's a lot of interesting stuff going on in his comments. Check it out.
I erroneously stated that none of the bloggers cited in Kid's post joined ITM in openly questioning the credibility of the Lancet Report at the time. Actually, the ever-dependable Iraq Pundit and Nibras Kazimi did just that at their own blogs. If they condemned it in the email exchange, Kid did not mention it. However, Kazimi was quoted by Kid to say unequivocally, "ITM is a true patriotic blog". Sooni and Bubzi also had very nice things to say about the ITM bloggers. I apologize to all of them for not highlighting that. (I genuinely miss Sooni posting by the way.)
I went poking around at the bloggers who were quoted by Kid regarding the ITM post to see if they wanted to temper their words now that Lancet Report has been shown so emphatically off-base. Only Salam Adil responded in detail. Neurotic Iraqi Wife says she still believes the Lancet Report and will consider responding in a future blog post. I got a response from a fellow reader at Khalid's site.
For completeness sake, I should reference Kid's "just previous" post regarding Omar's rant at the Lancet Survey:
Could you tell me, my dear friends Omar and Mohammed, WHY is this list fake? do you have a single shred of proof as to why these Lancet documents and statistics are such a 'disgrace to all the women, children and men who died'? merely calling it fake and disgusting just don't cut it, please stop living the lie, and take a look outside your window.
Kid criticizes ITM for blasting the Lancet survey for not detailing why survey was untrue. But, actually, he did. He criticized the lumping of civilians with terrorist/insurgent deaths, the fact that it was a stunning outlier of previous studies , and that report's timing and purpose were all about influencing the US mid-term elections rather than any interest in the cause or resolution to the death's of Iraqi's.
Kid is on the record with being adamant against the US pulling its troops out of Iraq. Yet, he has failed to explain why --since the purpose of this survey was to benefit (at the time) an American opposition party that backed abandoning Iraqis-- he would not be outraged by the survey himself.
It's hard to show just how thoroughly the Lancet Survey had been debunked as soon as it came out. The first critics were on TV, not print journals that I can site. The ITM post came out one to five days before the print journalists could collate experts to write articles. However, the following articles were written prior to Kid's campaign against ITM:
- Slate Magazine's article by Daniel Engber
- Slate Magazine's article by Christopher Hitchens
- Iraq Body Count's post four days later in Reality Check (Iraq Body Count blog)
Iraq Body Count is hostile to the deposing of Saddam. Hitchens was for it. Engber is somewhere in the middle. Why Kid thought ITM should reiterate what was already said and why Kid needed answers that had already been provided is beyond me.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Snow Day in Baghdad?!
We didn't waste much time at the window, however. After eating breakfast and waiting for the official announcement of a snow day from our parents, we would then dress for a day of fun and, more importantly, no school. Because it gets really cold in Iowa -- check the temperatures for Iowa today, if you want some idea of how frigid it can get -- we would have to dress accordingly: double pairs of socks, double pairs of blue-jean pants, a T-shirt and a couple sweatshirts, heavy snow-boots, an insulated coat of some kind usually with a hood, a pair of thick gloves (sometimes two), and on our heads the ubiquitous three-hole stocking cap: two holes for your eyes and one hole for your mouth. The area by the mouth and nose, by the way, would usually be covered with icicles at the end of the day from your warm breath meeting the cold air outside. Once dressed, we would head directly to the garage to pull out our sleds and toboggans and run to meet our friends who were also emerging from the nearby houses. And thus our day of liberation would begin.
Last Friday, on January 11, 2008, as most of you know, of course, for the first time in living memory for Iraqis, snow fell on Baghdad. Many of the Iraqi bloggers commented on the strange event. I especially liked "Let it snow!!" by Marshmallow 26, who had been sent a text message from her fiance down in Baghdad to tell her that it was snowing in Baghdad:
It was 6:30 am the next day, dad was fixing to go out for hunting, and I was covered by two thick blankets and a quilt, I heard dad was mumbling but didn't care. I got back to bed hid my head under my pillow and went to sleep again, I woke up at 9 am and got an SMS from my fiancé telling me that he is witnessing snow in Baghdad!! What? I couldn't believe at first, Baghdad?? No way? since when?If you'd like to see some of the photos she snapped on the way to Sulaimaniyah, check out her blog entry. Here are a couple other photos I found on the internet from that day:
Then I got up and went down stairs, dad was having breakfast! what's up dad? why are you still here? Did you miss the ride? No daughter I woke up earlier while it was raining and then snowing!! we?? Not only Baghdad?? Great!! Let me check... I looked through the window,yeah !!!!!!!!!!!! my eyes were captivated by that spellbinding scene, snow, the smell of the Iraqi tea arising from a hot kettle on the stove, , and warmth inside my house...I couldn't dream of any better, could I! that is what I was waiting for...
But hey, it was like a jail all day long at the house. We couldn't go out cuz the street were muddy. Hmm, lets see what else I can do?? YES!! Marsho always comes up with something interesting! I asked dad if he is willing to take us to Sullymania; the northern city on the next day! Dad thought about it for a little bit and then he said OK...
On the next day: the weather was just perfect, the sun was shining brightly and we were ready to roll...almost two hours of driving and we reached Sullymania.
This photo reminds me of my childhood. Iraqi girls enjoy playing in snow in Sulaimaniyah, 260 kilometers (160 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq on Friday, Jan. 11, 2008.
You've probably seen this photo before, but it's still worth looking at. An Iraqi man and his child enjoy light snow fall in eastern Baghdad, Iraq on Friday, Jan. 11, 2008.
I don't know if the snow in Baghdad was enough to cancel school and create a real "snow day," but the smiles on many of the Iraqi faces in the photographs above reveal some of the same joy we kids in the Midwest felt on those joyous days of reprieve from school and outdoor fun.
HOUSEKEEPING NOTE: I have finally gotten around to doing some much-needed clean-up on the blogroll. For the "Iraqi Bloggers (Active)" list, I removed any blog that hasn't posted in the last three months and placed them into the "Iraqi Bloggers (Inactive)" group, which you can now find at the bottom of the blogroll. I then moved the "Blogs of Interest" up to just below "Iraqi Bloggers (Active)" because they are usually the ones I go to after a spin through the Iraqi blogosphere. I'm not finished yet, but today I've made a good start. Expect a few more changes to the blogroll over the next day or so.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
A Saddam Hussein Poll
Update: Having trouble choosing? You can vote once per day!
Monday, January 14, 2008
Self-Criticism or Self-Hatred?
"It didn’t help that in the Arab world," Roba wrote, "teachers think that learning is only done by listening. How often was I forced to put my pen and paper away by the teacher so that I wouldn’t doodle, but instead stare blankly at the chalkboard while my mind did somersaults? For the longest time, I hated school, I hated learning, and I believed I was stupid."
But then, in sixth grade, she came across a book of her grandfather's called "The New Medicine Show," and, reading through this single book, she was finally able to understand how the human body worked. The next day at school, she got an A on a test in biology for the first time. Roba's academic career changed after that:
My discovery of informal learning changed my life. I realized that I cannot work with my attention span when it comes to listening, but that I can always make up for it with books and the internet, reading about a topic beyond what is required in the syllabii and without the mindframes set by the educators. I realized that it wasn’t my problem that I was a bad student as a child, it was the problem of the Arab mentality that puts too much stress on the importance of “listening” and formal knowledge. With better grades and the knowledge that sitting quietly at school is absolutely futile, I became louder, more outgoing, and more confident. I finished middle school and highschool with straight A’s, and university with a GPA of 3.7, while never listening to anything anyone ever said at school. I was always doodling, taking pictures, reading a book tucked inside my textbook.Recently Roba learned about a woman named Razan who runs a website called "Questler" that focuses on just such pedagogical issues that Roba had encountered as a young girl. In her blog entry, Roba included an short interview with Razan, in which asked Razan: "I know Questler is international, b[ut] as an Arab, do you think the Arab world in its current backwards mentality is ready for such an initiative?" This question would soon stimulate discussion on the comments page.
One of the first to stop by was Khalid Jarrar. He wrote a lengthy critique of Roba's blog entry. Because she had used the phrase "Arab mentality" when discussing the pedagogical system in her school, Khalid accused Roba of engaging in self-hatred and not self-criticism. The more he wrote, the angrier Khalid seemed to get:
[T]here is a pattern of not self-critisim, you have a pattern of…self-hating !! you dont belong to the “arab backward mentality” you dont speak Arabic, you dont belong to religion, the very majority of books, music, songs, movies you ever talk about is western, it seems to me that you are not satisfied with anything here, because it seems to me that you dont seem to belong here….dont seem to be able to fit? dont seem to want to belong?What do you think? Was Roba engaging in self-criticism or self-hatred? For Khalid Jarrar, Roba was not simply being critical of a way of teaching that is used in the Arab world; she was seduced by Westerners and, in fact, a traitor to the Arab people. Khalid's peroration in his comment was an impassioned plea to Roba not to reject her Arab/Muslim inheritance and to join him in the restitution of his people's glory. Khalid wrote:
And thats upsetting, all your critisim, writen in english, said like a westerner, in totally western views and logics, all that critism even unrightfuly directed towards everything Arab and Muslim, seems like its coming from an “outsider”, doesnt smell like sincere critism from someone calling for positive changes from the inside, and to add to it, just happens to come in a time of foriegn invasions to our region, not only Palestine, but also Iraq, and possibly others to follow, military intervention accompanied by a cultural attack aiming to wipe the Arab ID, and evry other source of pride that would prevent a person living in this region from rejecting an occupation, implementing this sence of resentment towards everything Arab and Muslim, to have even further control over people in this region and defeat their resistence.
I think we, as bloggers, must be among the first people to be aware of this and work to encounter it rather than promote it, we are in times where we need to get back to our identity as a way of self-preservation and resisting occupations, Islam, regardless of the fact that you like it or not, since the very majority of people in the region are muslims, is a base of unity too, that can be used to strengthen the relations among people and better prepare them to fight this multi-dimentional occupation to our region. the Arab heritage, has billions of bright sides and bright values, that we can invest to strengthen the sence of commitment towards these values and towards each other, you can always call for the good values of the Arab cultures, and you would be doing a good thing, rather than what looks like ili96iyad bilma2 il 3akir and looking for sides you see dark to critisize it for the mean fun of it and to look all ( i am so cool and western and 3arab are so ye3 and sovage), which seems like all what you ever do, ever, ever, not once you say anything good about anything Arab or Muslims, what good does that bring?This issue of the shifting line between self-criticism and self-hatred is not just one that Arabs have to confront; at times all social groups have critics within their collectivity who are either viewed as constructive critics or people who simply hate their own kind. For Arabs, because of a long history now of failure when confronted with the West, this issue is particularly volatile, as we saw here when Khalid became upset with Roba's comments and phraseology.
I have no answers here. We too here in the United States have people whose criticism of our own culture borders on self-loathing (for different reasons than those that animate Arab discourse, of course) and whose commentary does not seem constructive.
If you would like to see what Roba looks like (and her famous red high-top Converse sneakers), this week she offers a snapshot of a feature article called "Cyber Junky" written about her for Pulp magazine.
While writing the piece above, I was also thinking of a blog entry called "Again on the Train" from back in late-November of 2007 written by Hala at "Madly in Love with Iraq." Hala is living in the United Kingdom right now and she's started to notice some of the basic differences in outlook between the people around her there and what she remembers from Iraq and the Arab Middle East. One thing she noticed is that people in the West look to the future while those in the Middle East often look to the past. Hala writes:
In contrast we Arabs in general and Iraqis in particular trust the past more than the future.One cannot but sympathize with Hala and all those like her who would like to see tangible progress in her homeland and the defeat of the many tyrannies that have strangled the region for so long. In which direction will the region turn? To the past with Osama bin Laden and Khalid? Or to the future with Roba? Or perhaps a distinct blend of the past and the future? I do understand the concern of those Arabs who don't want to lose their identity. It can't be easy trying to balance one's Arab identity with the mulitple identities that flood out of the West with our products and our ideas.
It is only us who constantly look back and glorify the past. People now yearn for Saddam’s time and during his time they used to long for the sixties and in the sixties they wished the monarchy would rise again and so on.
Probably some would say it is unfair to put the blame on people when they are governed by brutal dictatorships and subjected to a lot of unjustness.
But I have become to believe that we Arabs are always afraid of losing our traditions and we grab in them blindly. Arabs don’t accept any criticism when it comes to religion or even sect. The majority of us live in cocoons even when we leave our countries.
We spend a life time struggling between what is forbidden (religion) and what is acceptable and not acceptable (tradition) and we end up losing on both.
We want to change but under our own conditions and changes are in most of the times unconditional.
However, and although I sincerely believe that people are the same all over the world, and their reactions and behaviour depend on how fairly they are treated, but unfortunately we are so used to being oppressed that we cannot function properly even when we taste freedom.
As Londoners cried all night over what they called a “disgraceful loss” of a very important match, they woke up the next morning and pinpointed the reason!
“We need home grown talents to rescue our national game”.
I thought of home, I thought of how long it would take to grow new Iraqis, how long it would take to demolish the concrete barriers between our areas, how long it would take to reinstate trust and love and most importantly how long it would take to reach enlightenment.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Decline and Fall of the Iraqi Blogosphere?
Is this the beginning of the end of the Iraqi blogosphere? And if so, why? Simple blogger fatigue? Perhaps. One reason, however, is that many of the English-language Iraqi bloggers are no longer living in Iraq. The three ITM brothers, Zeyad, BT (Treasure of Baghdad), Omar (24 Steps), M.H.Z., and Morbid Smile are all living in the United States right now on student visas. And, living here, they aren't able to blog first-hand about what it's like to live in Iraq. Of these bloggers, only BT has really been blogging about his personal experiences of living in the United States.
Konfused Kollege Kid is still in Jordan, I think, as is Chikitita. Riverbend's Doc Martens were last seen tramping around Syria. Alaa the Mesopotamian has only posted a couple blog entries since arriving in Canada last year. A few days ago he blogged and said that he is currently "brooding and waiting and at a loss which of the million thoughts to write about."
From the U.S., Iraqi Mojo, Iraq Pundit, and Ambassador Fayrouz have been the most prolific bloggers for the last couple months, along with Omar (24 Steps) and BT.
So who's in Iraq right now? Mohammed (Last of Iraqis), Caesar of Pentra, Shaqawa, and Hammorabi Sam. Of these, Mohammed has been the most diligent in posting.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention the extended family of Mosul bloggers, all of whom have posted entries recently: Najma, HNK, Sunshine, and Mama.
For a timeline of the Iraqi blogosphere, go here:
Let's Catch a Wave.
As you can see by the timeline, judging by the reduction in new Iraqi blogs, the decline seems to have already started sometime in 2006. Since mid-2007, there have been few new Iraqi bloggers in English.
The anglophone Iraqi blogosphere has not yet recovered completely from the Christmas and New Year holiday season. But, while you wait for the new entries and if you want to follow a very interesting exchange, I suggest heading over to the comments page for Michael Totten's "The Rings on Zarqawi's Finger." The discussion there takes up subjects like Arabic diglossia, moderate Muslims, the tribal nature of Iraqi society, Kurdish love for America and Israel, how many Muslims actually read the Koran, and several other thought-provoking topics, many of them commented on by people who have spent time in the Middle East and Iraq.